For years, the Bears fan collective has screamed that “the McCaskeys are cheap,” or that “they don’t care about winning.” Don’t worry, I am one of you. You are my people. I’m an angry Bears tweeter, who has for a long time disliked the way the family has run the show.
But since hiring one Mr. Phil Emery, things have taken a drastic turn for the better.
The Chicago Bears rolled into 2014 Training Camp with their most stacked roster in recent memory, and an Emery-retooled offense that saw the unlikely and bold acquisition of Brandon Marshall from Miami and a draft sensation in a trade up for Alshon Jeffery.
Emery then rebuilt an offensive line that had struggled to show virtually any improvement through a long stretch of years. The finishing touch came in another bold move to hire a relatively unknown Canadian Football League head coach, and now the Chicago Bears look like they could have one of the most dangerous offenses in the National Football League.
But I digress.
Now that Training Camp is upon us, rookie cornerback Kyle fuller is intercepting passes the first day, and everyone absolutely crushed their physical fitness tests. The defense has been retooled into something that should see marked improvement over last year’s debacle.
So I ask you, what are the realistic expectations for this team, this year?
Me? I happen to believe the Bears are among the top five teams you can make a strong argument for that should have a legitimate shot at Super Bowl contention. Halas Hall Kool-Aide poisoning? Maybe … or maybe it’s just the beer and brat I had.
Yes, there are definitely some uncertainties about the defense as of yet, namely at the safety position. I think that regardless, the position is still in a better place than it was last year — it doesn’t get much worse than Conte and Wright — and Brock Vereen certainly has the skill set to do something special with the Bears, but it might not be okay to expect that right away.
Ryan Mundy is a small improvement over Wright, and most of us will take anything we can get with regard to that situation. And if Adrian Wilson has anything left in the tank, that would certainly also be a major upgrade.
Kyle Fuller in my not so humble opinion will be a stud. I think that is the sure-fire pick in this draft much as Alshon Jeffery was in his.
Tillman, Fuller and Jennings ... two perennial Pro Bowlers with an all-out stud rookie … hey, I like their chances.
Then there are the other “how much does he have left in the tank?” questions on defense. Jeremiah Ratliff started to get back into shape as the season came to an end last year, and I think he can still play a little bit.
With the additions of Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston, the defensive line is 180 degrees better than 2013. Between Nate Collins, Ratliff, Paea, and the rookies they drafted at defensive tackle, something has gotta work out even if it's just a big rotation.
And let’s not forget that Cornelius Washington has all the skills to be an explosive rotational player in year two. But he will really have to prove his worth with a loaded defensive line unit.
Linebacker is also still a question mark. We know what Lance Briggs is, and I wouldn't expect much less from him. But D.J. Williams has to prove he can stay healthy. Shea McClellin is still going to be adjusting to his switch to outside linebacker. Though, I believe he should be best suited with his skill set for it. The Bottom line is that if the defensive line is as good as advertised everything else should fall into place.
As far as the offense goes, I think the only direction they can go is up. Through the air you might say.
Jeffery and Marshall are self-explanatory. And if you can get Marquess Wilson in the mix, that is another huge target for Cutler. If you have four guys on the field to catch passes that are 6’3”+, I'm not quite sure how to defend that.
It’s fair to assume that Cutler will take that next huge step into being a truly elite quarterback this year. Trestman said they want to run 100 plays or more this season. In year two of this offense, I can see it.
The biggest fear I have for this group, believe it or not, is Matt Forte. He has had a lot of carries and a lot of years behind bad lines. He’s approaching the breakdown mileage for running backs (to be honest, he’s already long surpassed it). To ease my fear of that is Ka'Deem Carey.
Carey is an upgrade over Michael Bush and is a strong finisher as a runner and the perfect person to give Forte the much needed rest he hasn't been able to get while Bush was here. A scary one-two punch could be in play finally.
Yep, we will see how things unfold throughout Training Camp and the Preseason. But if there has been a year in recent memory to be legitimately optimistic in July, it’s right here, and it’s right now.
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Filed under: Training Camp